Monday, November 28, 2011

Just 2 Single Gals Celebrating 2 Great Years!

Who could have predicted two years ago that I would eventually cut out the head of a dead woman and paste it onto the body of a real live friend!? (Sorry Mackenzie) Hopefully the creepiness of the photo will be lessened by the general sentiment of the following post. Hopefully.

Jamie Keiles is a feminist activist who has a cool tumblr I like to check in on every now and then. Recently, I noticed she had posted this:
"Struggling with the fact that there is not an external barometer that can ever make one feel validated as an artist/producer of content. The notion of making your own happiness and finding your own satisfaction is really hard to cope with."  
The last year has been full of uncertainty for me personally. My living situation was completely unstable, my life partner moved across the country, I had a "single lady" breakdown, and I spent a bit too long boo-hooing my perceived lack of validation. Instead of having only a moment of fear and self doubt, my year was the embodiment of Jamie's post. 

Sometimes it's hard to self motivate. Sometimes it's hard to be your own director. Sometimes second guessing myself is the only thing I feel like I do well. August was particularly difficult and just like last year, I didn't publish a single post. I started to question the point to all of this: My blog, my beliefs, my purpose in general. 

When I turned 27, I braced for a heavier "WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN!?" feeling. But that never came. Instead, I danced, I laughed, there were surprise appearances by Prince and Michael Jackson, and! a friend streaked at a club. My birthday was fabulous. 

It left me with a refreshed perspective that sparked renewed optimism. The night reminded me of all the great people in my life and that I have been encouraged by so many over the past year. 

This blog has affected me in ways I could never have expected. When a concept pops into my head that I need to develop into a complete idea, I have CalistaJones to turn too. It is an incredibly personal outlet but at the same time completely candid. An ever evolving mirror, where I can revisit former thoughts to see how I've grown. Or a source of pride whenever I need to be reminded of my value. She is a friend of my own creation.

CalistaJones isn't just a representation of me as an individual. It is a collaboration of the community existing around me, continually challenging me and reminding me of the need to question myself and my world. I have been praised and pitied; understood and questioned. Positive or negative, nothing has been wasted through this project.  

I didn't even have a specific vision for the site when I first started posting and now I can hardly keep up with all the ways it has influenced my life. I was even contacted by a casting director to be a part of documentary series (euphemism for a reality show) about feminist writers! That was a weird moment. Videos were made, phone conversations with producers occurred, tons of anxiety about what becoming the "feminist Snooki" would do to my family was had. Ultimately, they decided to cast directly out of LA which was probably for the best since I was asked if I could reasonably expect to have a boyfriend at some point during the 6 month filming period. Obviously, that was not a reasonable expectation, and a clear signal the project wasn't as feminist as they said seeing as I apparently needed a guy to complete my story arc. But still! A cool, weird, interesting experience I would not have had had it not been for CalistaJones.

The most valuable part of this experience has been the conversations I've had with people about feminism, influential women, and the way they are affected by this site. My middle school teacher, Jeff Kresge, contacted the Jamestown Public Schools Archivist, Pam Brown, and found a picture of Calista and more information about her life. Now, you'd have thought that maybe I would have done that research on my own, but, like I said, this is a collaboration. The fact he not only reads my posts, but went out of his way to find out more information about her, means so much to me. His support is the perfect example of the  connections that have been made. I don't always feel like I deserve the quality people I have in my life however, I'm careful to never take them for granted.

Jamestown Bricks on Lee Ave
As a girl who dreamt of the day she would leave her hometown since she was old enough to really think about her future, writing down my memories of childhood and realizing how influential my town's history has been on my adult life has left me with new appreciation for where I'm from. This really is invaluable because I spent 16 years of my life in Jamestown which of course impacted who I am greatly. Sometimes I think of it only in a negative way because I wanted to be surrounded by bigger, more obvious opportunities. However, writing about Calista has changed that completely. I've found a discerning new lens making Jamestown's impact on my life look a lot shinier, and I have to say I really like that. 
The oft mentioned Fenton History Center
My first introduction to Calista!
Every time someone reaches out to me to comment on a post, recommend an article, book, or new subject, critique something, or just let me know they were reminded of me while learning about another feminist or female, I feel really successful in whatever it is I am trying to accomplish. The whole point is to have an outlet for discussion, new ideas, and inspiration. CJ has helped me make new friends, reconnect with people from my past, strengthen relationships, and even encouraged a date here or there. I'm learning to become a better sister, daughter, friend, coworker, roommate, woman, and human being in general through each post. To me, that is all above and beyond what you should logically expect from a blog. I'm really grateful. Also, I will never get tired of being told you have read some of my posts. So, keep telling me! ;)
What a wise woman.

This July, I was supposed to go to the Pitchfork Music Festival with a sailor. That did not happen. Instead, my sister Cat came out for the weekend and during the fest we sat in the grass and had a great talk about life and my blog. She told me about my mom having a moment of concern over some of my content and the possibility of overexposure. She asked my sister why I had to be so visceral and direct. There was also mention of fears about future political endeavors being negatively affected. Oh moms. Using daughters' hypothetical political campaigns as covers for not liking their public lamentations about how difficult it is to get bald vaginas! (We're pretty sure that is the post that made her worry most, but who knows!) 

All I do know is #1, I have no political aspirations, #2, I could be much more direct, and #3, Cat's response was the greatest gift she has ever given me. She told my mom saying the things I say in the way I say them helps other people to look at certain situations in new ways. Women like me are the ones encouraging change. My mom came back to her a bit after the conversation and thanked her for making her feel better. Had my mom come to me with her concerns I wouldn't have said those things and I know I probably wouldn't have been successful in describing why I write the way I do. I'm sure she still cringes every time she reads the word "fuck" but at least I know she gets it and I always know when I piss people off and need to cry for at least 20 minutes, she'll always answer and listen to me. And I know my sister believes in me more than I might believe in myself. Good thing that sailor was a no show, huh? ;)

Recently, there was sort of a Facebook catastrophe based on a status update I made about the gender derived wage gap. I used the NFL and cheerleaders to make a point that as long as more male-only jobs exist in mega profitable industries, there won't be equal pay between the sexes. I forgot when you say ANYTHING about pro-football, you will surely face a lot of challenges seeing as it's the favorite entertainment outlet for many this time of year. I survived, but it sort of taught me a valuable lesson: people don't see how complacent they are in their own support of society's inequities. Myself included. 

Continually denying privilege is completely regressive and destructive.  Feminism has a history riddled with ignoring certain advantages reserved for white women. I can't say I don't benefit from the oppressing class and while yes, patriarchy is a real thing, it's not the only repressive social organization. This past year was about examining the point of feminism, so this next year will be about how to make feminism better. I want to look into how gender rules, as they are now, negatively affect us as a whole, not just as women. I also would like to examine how feminism in the past has fallen short of it's actual goals and how it can be better aimed to attack the kyriarchy in a way that stops neglecting certain facets benefiting oppressors.

When you allow yourself to formulate your own thoughts and opinions, you achieve true self empowerment, which is the greatest gift. You become open, a better listener, more willing to interpret ideas and understand the world. It's unimaginative to assume the way things are is the only way they can be. So, I'm excited! There is so much to learn. Here's to a long and beautiful friendship with CalistaJones!
Proof that I have actual living friends! :)


  1. I think we all learned a valuable lesson that day about the NFL and how it affects the brains of people who will never be a part of it. Thanks for always writing and giving us something to think about!

  2. Happy Anniversary! Kinda bummed to hear that you don't have political aspirations. But if you did, your critique of the NFL would probably bar you from public office more than anything you have to say about pubic hair. Why do you hate America? :)

    Can't wait to see what year 3 has in store!